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The Broadway District sits on the west bank of the Fox River in Green Bay. As a riverfront location, the area has long been a center of commerce, whether for the fur trade, lumber, paper or, today, as a hive for small businesses and entrepreneurs. However, this transition was not without difficulty, as the 1980s saw the district become a high-crime area defined by disrepair and vacancy. In 1995, a group of persistent local merchants, neighbors and community leaders launched a Main Street organization to reclaim the street. Some early triumphs included a new streetscape, a partnership with local police, and creation of a supportive small business and live-work environment. As of 2009, the district had already achieved success, with the renovation of 91 properties and development of four new infill projects. Progress has continued since that time, with the addition of new residential opportunities and further reduction in storefront vacancies. The most notable change is the conversion of a former train depot and later an adjacent vegetable processing facility into the Titletown Brewery, restaurant, tap room and event center. Over its entire tenure, the district has had a net gain of 171 new businesses that employ more than 1,600 individuals, and has attracted just shy of $69 million in private investment to improve 167 buildings. With 45 statewide awards, the district is the ‘winningest’ community in the state, and is well-known for innovative adaptive reuse projects and regionally significant marketing and event initiatives that bring thousands to shop, dine and stroll during annual events such as the Winter Wine Walk and Wednesday and Saturday farmers’ markets.

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After a historic paper mill in downtown Neenah closed in 2006, the 16-acre site was in danger of becoming an eyesore that lowered property values and hindered economic development.

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Beloit, another of Wisconsin’s inaugural Main Street communities, has sustained commitment to downtown progress for more than two and a half decades. A former factory town blessed with the presence of a river and downtown campus (Beloit College), Beloit has channeled the passion of its residents into a successfully reimagined community on the riverfront. As with all Great American Main Street Award winners, Downtown Beloit has established strong local partnerships. Housed together with the Greater Beloit Economic Development Corporation, Visit Beloit and the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce, the organization has generated regional support for its numerous public art initiatives and innovative incentive strategies, which, in turn have resulted in quality renovations and numerous small business success stories. Moving from 19 percent vacancy in 1988 to 7 percent in 2011, and then to a waiting list of prospective businesses in 2015, Beloit is a downtown success story by any measure. Community pride led directly to the successful community-initiated development project, which created the Beloit Inn, a luxury downtown hotel project. Other community-driven initiatives and partnerships include the conversion of a former Woolworth store into a local foods grocery, creation of the Beloit Fine Arts Incubator, and selection of a downtown location for the Beloit College bookstore. Cumulative private investments of $70 million have created appealing spaces for entrepreneurs, tech companies and civic organizations alike, leading to a 192 percent increase in property values over the past 20 years and rehabilitation of more than 286 buildings. The adaptive reuse of the 750,000-square-foot former Ironworks building, begun in 2014, is the next phase of this activity. Already home to numerous software and technology-based firms, the building is also slated to become home to the regional YMCA, with a proposed pedestrian bridge across the Rock River providing additional connectivity. Moving forward, the organization continues to focus on residential development, including upper floor conversion and infill units designed to meet the needs of a growing workforce and Baby Boomer market; recruitment of additional restaurants to complement a growing food cluster; and expansion of an already active public art scene. The Downtown Beloit Association is responsible for more than 40 days of events each year, including an award-winning farmers’ market and month-long winter holiday celebration.

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Chippewa Falls Main Street was established in 1989, just one year after the formation of the statewide program. Chippewa Falls' Main Street Program has always been known for its abundance of dedicated volunteers and an engaged business community, and is no stranger to publicity. In addition to receiving the Great American Main Street Awards, Chippewa Falls was named by Time magazine as one of America's top 10 small towns to live in, was mentioned in Wisconsin’s State of the State address, and was named in 2000 as one of 12 national "Distinctive Destinations" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The city has been a strong partner in the effort, with multiple staff and elected officials serving on the organization’s board and committees. Together, the community and the Main Street organization have addressed numerous issues, including a 2005 highway bypass of downtown, catalyzing investment in wayfinding and marketing initiatives downtown. Beginning in 2014, the city embarked on a $10 million project to restore the waterfront, starting with a new visitors’ center at the gateway to downtown. Plans also include a new riverwalk and waterfront event space, and the city is in negotiations with developers of a proposed hotel on an infill site downtown. During its 26-year tenure, the program has seen $58 million in private investment and $43 million in public investment, including the previously mentioned riverfront improvements. The supportive business climate has facilitated 256 individual property improvement projects and sustained near 100 percent storefront occupancy along Bridge Street. Not surprisingly, Chippewa Falls Main Street has won 39 Wisconsin Main Street awards, with a particular emphasis on retail events and community engagement, most notably with the long-running Paint the Town event series. Also noteworthy is the district’s emphasis on high-quality marketing and design initiatives applied to everything from logos to collateral and streetscape elements.

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